Back in 2019 Thais (my girlfriend) and a friend of hers did the Windsor Triathlon. They bought me in as coach and supporter for the day. It was fantastic. I am pretty sure there is no better way to spend a Sunday than wake up at 4:30 and go and watch people do a triathlon.
As soon as they finished I was whipping out the credit card for the 2020 race. You all know what happened next.. We’re now in 2022 for the next edition of the race.
After two years of illness and injury. Training for canceled events. I was over the moon to be lining up for triathlons in 2022. (We don’t talk about my trip to Marbella).
Windsor is an Olympic distance: 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I had never done one before, so it was great to tick one off.
Thais had also registered. It was fun signing up to do an event together. She definitely doesn’t like triathlon as much as me (she doesn’t seem to like watching the whole 8 hours of the Ironman World Champs at Kona??). But, she does enjoy throwing herself into a challenge.
The Windsor triathlon requires you rack your bike up the day before. So Saturday morning we found ourselves on the way to Windsor to drop off the bikes. I had overslept and missed a scheduled three hour turbo session (this still bothers me). Thais had a 6:30am start so we’d booked a hotel for the night.
Dropping off the bikes was a smooth process. I got some free nutrition and stared at bikes. After dropping off the bikes we headed to Richmond for an afternoon tea for my Mum’s birthday.
Perfect carb loading if you ask me.
Once back in Windsor it was time for a Wagamamas and then an early bed.
Triathlon mornings are great. Alarm set for before 5am, a peaceful morning snack, a nice coffee. Slight panic as you realise time has flown by and it is less than 30 minutes until your girlfriends start time! (Also branding hair is so difficult).
It wasn’t long until I dropped off Thais and waved her off. She looked a bit nervous, but she was going to do great.
I watched her wave get going and then wondered back to transition. I still had an hour to go until I started! Plenty of time to spend queuing for the porta-loo (if this is your first triathlon blog post, everyone talks about porta-loos). I then watched Thais finish the swim and get out onto the bike.
I felt so proud seeing her finish, she’d spent the last week feeling ill with a (non-covid) cough.
With time ticking, I donned my wet suit and started loitering with a bunch of others in my wave.
The swim start was a bunch start from a buoy, getting there involved a small obstacle course down from a grassy bank onto a pontoon and then into the water. The water was.. warm! I did not expect that at tool.
The Windsor triathlon is pretty cool. You are swimming in the river Thames. The start is about 600m down from transition and you swim with the current about 1,000m down to the Windsor bridge. From the bridge you turn and swim against the current back to transition.
Something I didn’t not in my prep was that for the first 1,000m you swim facing the rising sun. My completely clear goggles were not suited for this! I swam most of the swim blind, sticking to other swimmers feet. Working out where to turn was a mystery. The last part of the swim back up the river felt like it took an age. Windsor has a couple of small islands dotting the side of the river. I found it quite disorientating and strange to work out how far back up the river I was. I also had no sign of how I had swum. I was amongst the pink hats of the wave before me. I could also see some blue hats from the wave behind me. I had no idea if that was good.
I found myself climbing out of the water. I checked my watch and saw 30 minutes. Disappointed, I thought 28 minutes was on the cards. But, I did swim roughly 100m extra. So.. it wasn’t too bad. But I must work harder on my swimming.
A few weeks ago I was in Marbella for a half ironman. My day went south when I swallowed a mouthful of sea water. It caused my horrible stomach cramps for the entire bike and meant I could not run.
Here, I had swallowed some of the Thames and I felt SO much better than last time. Absolute relief.
The transition was long.. clocking in at 6 minutes. It felt like I was running for a long time to get to my bike, and then I ran even longer to get out of transition. Transition times were long here! Must improve.
Once out of the bike, we were onto roads not closed for the event. This was a new experience for me. It made me more appreciative of the Ironman events with closed roads. Ironman sure are expensive, but I get it.
The Windsor triathlon bike course takes you out of Windsor and onto a short two lap section, from where you head back into Windsor.
The first section winds through some housing as you ride away from the Thames. I took the opportunity to get my heart rate down before we hit the rolling roads.
It was on these rolling roads that I was able to attach myself to the rear of a group of riders (outside the drafting zone, don’t worry!). What a joy, my swim is normally so slow I don’t see anyone! We were soon picking our way through riders on their second lap.
I kept losing touch on the steeper parts of the climbs (worrying considering I have an Ironman in Switzerland soon 🏔). As we came onto the second lap I misread the road signs and took a wrong turn. This meant navigating a bit of traffic and doing a 270 degree turn to get myself back on track. Unfortunately, that blunder meant I did not see that group again at all!
On the second lap I was still passing a lot of riders, rarely passed myself. This was a great feeling! I did have someone draft me for a while as we hit a headwind. He promptly passed and dropped me at the top of a climb.
Heading back into Windsor was mega. There are some nice long roads that you can really pick up the pace on. The final twisty section before transition was an odd one. With live roads I found myself being held up a fair bit. I also saw a fair few triathletes giving motorists a hard time. Its like they forgot about they weren’t the only people on the road. Never thought I’d find myself defending motorists!
Once off the bike it was a case of getting on with the run.
The run is a bit of an unknown for me. I’ve been running extremely easy for months now. I don’t want to aggravate my calf in the lead up to Switzerland. So of course I set of at what I thought might be an unreasonable pace. For a short period of time the hope of a 10km PB was on the horizon.
The Windsor run course is a three lap affair. With two climbs on each lap. Walking up the climbs the night before they looked pretty daunting. But, on the day they felt flat! I couldn’t believe it, I had been running hills a lot in training and it seemed to have paid off!
Unfortunately, my trademark stomach issues started kicking in. Not wanting to cause an incident, I dialled things back and decided to get myself around in a sub-50 minute 10km. I want and know I am capable of more.
The highlight of the run was seeing Thais a couple of times on the run. Extremely proud to see her get across the finish line. She has a half Ironman coming up in October so this is a good confidence booster.
I was just happy to have finished an event. I finished the Windsor triathlon in 2 hours 43 minutes. It wasn’t a perfect day out and I am sure I had more in the tank. The whole day was a comfortable effort, I think a 2h 30 was on the cards if I had been willing to suffer more.
I had to use my imagination and dreams of completing goals to get myself through a tough year or so. Actually succeeding at an event feels like I have had my tank of motivation and enthusiasm top-ed up.
Next up, Switzerland. I am absolutely bouncing off the walls with excitement right now.